Money Tips on Traveling

After 80 years (in snake years) of traveling, I have developed phenomenal wisdom on doing it right and today, I choose to graciously share my golden expertise.

Side note: my writing teacher told me he hates it when he sees authors use adverbs. I have just tremendously disappointed him.

Last side note: don’t look up the equivalent of snake years to human years, it doesn’t exist.

Don’t check in your bags on domestic flights. If you are carrying more liquid than the carry-on liquid restriction allows you to, swallow all of them. Once you board the plane, go to the bathroom and strategically urine them out into their original home and put them back in your carry-on. This is do-able, I promise.

I used to check in my bags even if they had a fee. Most domestic flights have a fee and unless you are a frequent flyer person or the king of a country, you would have to pay that fee. They start off at least $20 a pop. My justification in checking in my bag was the leisure of walking around the airport without hauling a luggage and I wouldn’t need to purchase any travel sized toiletries. However, my head got hit one day and I realized that if I checked in my bag for a roundtrip flight, I’m giving away at least $40 to the airline which is more than enough to purchase travel sized toiletries. So I’d rather use that money to gain inventory – purchasing that travel sized toothpaste. This is applicable if you didn’t already choose to DIY – transfer liquid from a household size to a small bottle to make your own travel sized toiletries.

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Duty free doesn’t really save you money. I am only going to comment on cosmetics and skin care. 

  • Sephora has an annual Friends & Family sale which is 20% off regular priced items. This happens once a year, usually around November. If you can’t wait that one time every year, there are brands that have their exclusive Friends and Family sale throughout the year, also at 20% off regular priced items or similar if not more discounts. You sign up for their newsletter via their website to receive such alerts. Examples of brands include Tarte, Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown and Origins.
  • If you’re more on the high-end beauty products, La Mer offers you $75 off on your first time purchase of $350 or more. And if you’re shopping at La Mer, I know you will spend $350 or more.
  • If you sign up to receive e-mails with Saks Fifth Avenue which carries more high-end beauty products than Sephora, they offer 15% off of them (without having to sign up for their store credit card), whereas competitors like Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s almost never offer such deal on their beauty products.
  • My point is that you’re not saving money by purchasing items at full price even if they are tax-free at duty-free. Let’s take a look at the sales tax in America.  To name a few, the American cities with the highest combined sales tax rates (that is State + City) are Seattle, Washington; Oakland, California; Chicago, Illinois; their rates are 9.6%, 9.5% and 10.25%. Thus, even with the highest sales tax in Chicago, Illinois, you are not saving by purchasing a tax-free item, at full price, compared to 20% off a product with a 10.25% sales tax.

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But do your homework. One time at the JFK terminal for IcelandAir, I noticed a 30% mark off of SK-II products. I thought I was dreaming but I did my homework and saw that the exact product, exact weight on the counter at the duty-free section was 30% cheaper than the one from SK-II’s website. The sales associate explained that they were trying to market the brand in more European countries. Needless to say, this was a no brainer that the cost of the product would be exceptionally (sorry, writing teacher) lower even at 20% off + sales tax because it was 30% off with zero sales tax.

Hotels usually have complimentary items that they do not place in your room-for instance toothpaste, toothbrush, slippers and elephants. However, hotels sometimes list these items in their welcome pamphlet but sometimes they do not. It’s like the elephant in the room. So, it doesn’t hurt to call the front desk to ask and request that they bring you the complimentary items. My little brother who has travelled far less than me taught me that. The student sometimes becomes the teacher.

Ask other passengers if you can cut the line instead of airport employees. When you have an international flight that consists of a connecting flight, you may need to go through customs and borders before you can board the connecting flight. Sometimes you only have two hours to do so, or even less. This may not be enough time and even if it is enough time, you will be stressed trying to make that cut off.

In the past, I’ve noticed that passengers would ask employees managing the customs and borders line if they can cut the line. Every time I have witnessed this, I have seen their request get denied, even if they explain that they have a connecting flight in an hour and we can all see that they are not going to make without cutting the line. I’m not sure if these employees are just being assholes or if there are security reasons. However, if I’m not in a hurry as well, I really don’t mind another passenger cutting me so that he/she can make it to their connecting flight. I would recommend the passenger to go to the front of the line and ask other travelers with their valid justification if they can cut them.

Something similar happened to me when I was flying back home from college, at the Pittsburgh International Airport. I got to the airport to only have one hour to check in, go through security, take the airport train to my terminal and board my flight. It was my fault because I was eating brownies. When I asked the security lady if I can cut the line after explaining my situation, she said, “Ma’am then you should have gotten to the airport earlier.” I gave her the middle finger (this I do not advise on doing) and asked again. Luckily, a family towards the front of the line heard my situation and they generously offered me to cut them in line.

Bless them. As good things happen to good people.

When you book your flight, try to get the seats near the emergency exits. Some airlines though like JetBlue charges an upgrade fee for these seats (they call them “Even More Space”) even though they are economy seats. If the airline you’re booking does not charge that, then book those seats as you will have more leg space without paying the price of business or first class.
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Some cheap airlines will give you an ounce of soda from a can and think that it will will quench your thirst for the next few hours. Ask for an entire can of soda, they will give it to you. While you’re at it, also ask for a sword, they will also give that to you. I’m serious.

When your flight is delayed not due to weather related reasons, and depending on how delayed it is, you’re entitled to meal reimbursements. Remember to save your receipt and write a letter to the airline’s reimbursement department.

You’re also entitled to reimbursement for baggage lost, damaged or delayed. For items that you had to purchase due to these reasons, and they should be acceptable items on a list provided by the airline, you are able to get reimbursed. Save your receipts.

Bonus: if you feel the need to, you can also write a letter to the airline to demand flight credit for baggage issues. They will usually give you some credit if substantial inconvenience resulted.

Avoid using credit cards with foreign transaction fees. These are not arguable! I have tried! Credit card companies will not waive this fee for you even if it’s a first offense or if you’re a long time loyal customer. This fee ranges from 2% to 3% of the transaction. Use credit cards with $0 annual fee that also have 0% foreign transaction fees. 

  • There are two that I – one is Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card and one is Discover It.
  • If you can only get one, I’d recommend getting Capital One Silver (Visa) because Visa is more predominantly accepted than Discover.


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Remember that even if you planned out a lot of things, or you expected certain outcomes things will not turn out exactly as you expected or planned. There will be hiccups on the way but one of the best things said in llama path’s pamphlets is to treat every unexpected event as a pleasant surprise or a learning experience. So that one time I walked in on my parents in the bathroom at the restaurant we were dining at in France, it was not awkward. I learned the other nickname my dad had for my mom nor and the size of my dad’s, hands.

Last but least, make sure you acknowledge the currency of the cost.

One hundred Euro is very different from one hundred Hungarian forint. A lot of travel sites warned about this and it seems like common sense but this mistake can happen very easily.  Sometimes it is a pure miscommunication. It can also happen when you’re overly excited about a bargain deal. Once, I swiftly swiped my credit card after I saw a number far lower than what was priced back in America, only to realize that it was actually in Euro instead of USD after I swiped the card. Luckily, the currency difference still made the item a bargain, just at a slightly lower bargain than I interpreted.

What are some of your traveling tips?

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